Raging fires continue to burn in northern California, which have now claimed the lives of 21 people, with over 560 people yet unaccounted for. Nearly two dozen fires in several counties have caused widespread devastation, charring over 170,000 acres, an area that is larger than the city of Chicago. Thus far, 3,500 buildings have been destroyed, and there is justified fear that as these fires continue to grow, the loss of lives, homes and businesses will sadly increase.

“Our heartfelt and fervent prayers are with all those who are affected by the fire. Words cannot adequately convey our love and support for those mourning the loss of their homes, their possessions, and especially their loved ones, whose lives tragically ended as these fires consumed homes and land,” stated His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco. “May God grant strength and courage to all those who are risking their lives to protect others and watch over them with His Mighty Hand. We also pray that He may calm the winds, bring the fires under control, and grant comfort to all those who have been displaced during this tragedy.”

We know that one parishioner from the community of Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Vallejo, CA, has lost their home and all their possessions. Additional families from this parish, along with several others from the Nativity of Christ Greek Orthodox Church in Novato, California, are among the 25,000 people evacuated, all still anxiously awaiting word if their homes were in the path of destruction.

There is concern that some of these 22 fires burning in northern California will merge, exacerbating an already perilous situation. Local weather forecasts call for an increase of volatile and gusty winds which could contribute to even greater damage and loss of life. It is important for all residents in these areas to heed the warnings of law enforcement and abide by their direction to evacuate if conditions worsen.

Many people have inquired as to how they can help. At the present time, emergency shelters are full and they have received tremendous donations to provide for food, clothing and other necessities for those displaced from their homes.

We are presently compiling a list of parishioners in these areas in northern California who are willing to open their homes and provide food and shelter to any of our families who are displaced. If you would like to be placed on this list, please email metropolis@sanfran.goarch.org and provide your name, address, phone number, and the number of people you can accommodate in your home. You will be contacted as needed.

The Canyon Fire 2 in Anaheim Hills is thankfully being brought under control, but has also displaced several families in southern California. The fire has grown to over 8,000 acres but is now at 45% containment.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Macon/The Chronicle